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No on Measure L Part 2

The second part of my examination into why Measure L will not solve the problems in and out of the classroom that are holding our schools back.


(This is the second part of a blog. Here is a link to part one.)

Perhaps most damning of all is Jerry Heverly’s evaluation of our public schools. As a teacher at San Leandro High School, Mr. Heverly is well aware of the burdens facing educators beyond budget woes, issues that have taken root both in the homes of students and within the very structure of our educational system. “Failure is widespread” wrote Mr. Heverly of the performance of his students up to the end of this grading period, noting “it’s like this every year”.

The district continues to insist that it all comes down to money, yet no matter how much San Leandrans provide there never seems to be any bones to attach all this meat to. As Mr. Heverly asked, where are the solutions? Our initial investment from Measure B and M has yielded an API score of 738 out of 1000 in the 2011-2012 school year. Though 800 was the state target, the numbers woefully betray the fact that San Leandro is clinging to being average.

I doubt that low test scores are what any San Leandran was hoping for when they bought into the district’s claims that things would get better once we funded M and B. Our leadership in district office seems to think it’s more important to focus resources on funding a free clinic as opposed to solving the problems in our classrooms. If our teachers in the classroom are directionless, what good will buying them a GPS be if they don‘t even know where they‘re going in the first place?

Measure L will continue the district’s trend of poor planning and fiscal irresponsibility. Don’t buy once more into the district’s quick-fix mentality that never pans out. Low test scores and a lack of leadership are undermining our schools and our students’ potential. Tell the SLUSD no and demand fundamental changes to how this district and the state handles education. Vote no on Measure L.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Justin Agrella November 06, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Leah, all that tells us is that OUSD does a lot of supposed listening but it takes no action. The schools still stink and crime is still bad(it is still the Murder capital of the US). Actions speak louder than words and money thrown at a problem without plans and follow through do nothing. They could pend $50,000 per child in Oakland and San Leandro and nothing would change without some real structural changes and I don't mean building new schools. Money doesn't equal school performance. This has all happened in real time with the Kansas City School Experiment that failed miserably: http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-298.html "Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil--more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers' salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country. The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration."
Leah Hall November 06, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Fact check: Go Oakland Public Schools (author of this survey) is /not/ OUSD. From their website: "Great Oakland Public Schools is a nonprofit membership organization that connects and activates an informed community network to advance policies that ensure all Oakland students have the opportunity to attend quality public schools. We are a coalition of parents, teachers, principals, and community leaders from the hills and flatlands, East, West, and North Oakland, charter and district public schools who share a vision of an Oakland where all children receive the schooling and support they need to live successful, fulfilling lives." http://www.gopublicschools.org/about/
Robert Marrujo November 06, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Justin/David/Allan/Fred-What's most frustrating here is that it doesn't matter what you say or logic you throw out there, your point will be cast aside because it's just not convenient for the people who want to pass L. They talk big about "saving" education here in SL, but the sad truth is they don't have a clue what's happening. They don't know the situation in the classroom, what's happening in a lot of these kids' homes, they don't understand just how multifaceted the problem really is; heck, when you shunt your kids to private school you really don't have a clue what's happening here. It really is almost pointless to argue with them because they don't want to understand what the real issues are. They happy blithely letting the district hold their hand and tell them what to do, all while telling us to go to hell or what have you. You've seen some of the responses you're getting, we have people on here desperately searching google until they find something resembling their argument so they can feel good about themselves. I'm not saying give up, but don't give yourselves ulcers splitting hairs with poseurs. Thanks for sharing my sentiment, and hopefully the polls yield a negative response to Measure L.
Andrew Kopp November 06, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Robert, I think you are guilty of the very accusations you level at the Measure L supporters. I have two kids in SL schools, and I can afford to send them elsewhere. I have been on the Citizen's Oversight Committee for Measure B since its inception. My wife helped secure millions of dollars in matching funds for SLUSD as the District grant writer. We are very active parents. I know that Rob Rich has his son in SL schools and is incredibly active. To lay a blanket characterization on your detractors because of the fact that Leah Hall sends her child/children to St. Paul's is beneath an intelligent dialogue about the issues. I agree with your (and I mean that collectively) criticisms that money alone solves nothing, and that money without a plan is wasted. I have not seen in your article or in this set of posts any particular criticism of the program (i.e. what should they stop doing, what should they start doing). What in particular do you believe that the District needs to do? The District can't make better parents. The District can't fix the home life of every student. The District can't reject students whose parents are not supportive. What particular programming change are you advocating?
Leah Hall November 06, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Andrew asks the kinds of questions that I think are important. I also think it is wishful thinking to say that only one group of people have any right to ask questions or take initiative in support quality public schools in San Leandro. I would imagine that more than 2/3rds of the folks voting today on Measure L do not have kids or grandkids enrolled in a San Leandro Public school. Someone like Mike Katz-Lacabe could probably fact check that point and let us all know. Get over it, Richard. It's simply the state of things as they are.
David November 06, 2012 at 09:05 PM
So, we're the ones who have to come up with a plan to improve the schools, and if we don't, we should just hand over our money to SLUSD? Really? That's your rebuttal? Is that how you ask for a raise? Hey Boss, I'm not doing any better than last year (or the year before, or the year before that, heck, I'm doing worse than I was doing 10 years ago), so, give me some more money. What, a plan to get better you say? No, I don't have that, why don't *YOU* think of a plan to get me to improve at my job. Boss: You're fired.
Andrew Kopp November 06, 2012 at 09:18 PM
David - its not a rebuttal. Its a discussion. I asked you for your ideas. I'm not the school district. I'm not your employee. I'm your neighbor. I'm trying to understand your point of view. WHAT IS YOUR PLAN? It is remarkably easy to say "you are doing it wrong." Is that all that you have? Really? Because that's worthless. There are test results and statistics that say that the district isn't doing well enough. I don't need you and your insight for that. I was hoping for something constructive. Maybe those that simply toss your voice out with the bathwater are right.
Carlos J November 06, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Yes David WE as all of us, I have kids in the SLUSD, discussed the pro's and con's of the Parcel's and Bond's ... but in the long run it's not about me It's about what is better for everyone in a city including the residents that don't have children, Better schools are a foundation to a better society, and your right throwing money at a problem for the sake of throwing money doesn't work if it did, the jails would be awesome. You have taken the word of one teacher whom I know very well ...about getting the side of others, about you guys joining in and going to board meetings, committee meetings and learn the ins and outs of what happens and what fails, Learn why the EDUCATION SYSTEM as a whole is failure in many ways.. do you think if public schools could operate like private schools and charge the same money and demand the same from parents ...do you think we would be having a discussion about Measure L??
Andrew Kopp November 06, 2012 at 09:25 PM
And your analogy sucks. The District isn't our employee. The District is us. The City is us. You tell people that you want them to educate your children, to create a working a successful school system. You hire them. You pay them. You give them resources. They fail. Tell you they need more money to succeed. You think otherwise. So you fire them and find someone that can succeed without more money because you are convinced the success is not tied to money, its tied to something else. BUT YOU DON'T HAVE A CLUE WHAT THAT IS! Its not your job to figure out what brings success. Others have success. You can have success. You only know that the key to success it isn't money, its something else. WHAT DO YOU THINK THAT SOMETHING IS? Or is that not your job as a resident of San Leandro. Is that what Robert means by involvement and ownership of the school system? That's not my job? Holy crap.
Leah Hall November 06, 2012 at 09:52 PM
David repeatedly and consistently "advocates" for education vouchers, with the footnote that it depends on what you consider authentic advocacy. I'm not sure there is any real pro-private-school-voucher movement in the East Bay, but David might be supportive if someone besides himself started one. The thing that really stinks about this type of "plan" is that it seeks to take civic resources and funding from the very thing most residents feel is a top priority in their neighborhoods (with their own kids enrolled or not) - our local public schools.
Andrew Kopp November 06, 2012 at 10:03 PM
I have numerous objections to vouchers. My principal objection to vouchers is that any voucher system must provide sufficient funds for students to attend a school that meets state and federal educational criteria. If you have students receiving vouchers that do not fully and completely cover the cost of education you are violating the state constitution. What if there are not enough schools that meet the state and federal criteria for all of the kids in the district? Then the district still needs to provide a school. What if there are 300 kids - 30 in each grade - that cannot gain acceptance to a private school using the voucher? Is the district going to have a school with one class in each grade. How will the district deal with the year to year fluctuations. If you were a private school like Head Royce or Bishop O'Dowd and you knew that students were now receiving vouchers from the state, wouldn't you just hike tuition by the amount of the voucher? Competition would create some force to keep the cost of school down, but it hasn't done that good of a job so far. The best private schools still costs $25K plus. As far as I can tell it is free money for the private schools. And how much would the vouchers be? Would they equal the per student expenditures of each district? So we would perpetuate the disadvantage of unequal funding? I don't see how it would work.
Robert Marrujo November 06, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Guilty of what? I used Leah as an example, and she is certainly not alone. It's incredibly valid to point out that parents like her detract from the quality of education in a community due to their absence. That's not a blanket statement, but acknowledgment of a very real contributing factor to our problems. Using the microcosm of your own existence to rationalize away all the arguments everyone here, including myself, have made against Measure L is inexcusable. You yourself point out that the district can't resolve the parental issues plaguing our schools-issues that are crippling our teachers' ability to run their classrooms and do their jobs. So your solution is to ask for money? After we've already given $159 million to the tune of middling test scores that fall below state requirements? I stated above, the solution is going back to the drawing board and facing some hard truths. Kids are passing from grade to grade who shouldn't, gangs are sinking their claws into our kids, and there are not enough parents like yourself who are active in their kid's education. As you know, that's only PART of the problem.
Leah Hall November 06, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Good going, Andrew. Any moment now we will all hear from David about Milwaulkee's Catholic school voucher "success." :) I think what matters most is focusing on our local schools. I don't have any particular problem including private schools in the mix, but any discussion must hold true the fundamental principal that all San Leandro students have the opportunity to attend quality public schools in their own neighborhoods.
Robert Marrujo November 06, 2012 at 11:01 PM
In terms of the program? Accountability. If a kid isn't prepared to move to the next grade level, hold them back. Focus on remedial courses for the kids who are failing at the middle and high school levels, courses they need to pass before letting them move on or graduate. We need to be identifying teachers who are underperforming and finding ways to rectify their shortcomings. More effective implementation of curriculum. For instance, those "form essays" that the English department uses are horrific and produce such stale, jilted writing that the kids wouldn't last two seconds in a college English course. Ironically, the need for these forms stems from kids not learning the writing skills they should have in grammar school. Is that everything? No. But it's a start, and if you throw a bunch of administrators and teachers into a room to go over these issues and the plethora of ones they'll come up with on their own, then you'll start seeing some changes. Instead, the district spends $159 million of taxpayer money to improve/build facilities and then realize after that there's no money to support said structures. Instead, the district spends time and resources looking into clinics before figuring out how to raise their API. Priorities are out of whack. So yes, I object to Measure L because I want real solutions.
Andrew Kopp November 06, 2012 at 11:11 PM
To keep on point, Robert, your post essentially stated that Justin/David/Allan/Fred should not waste their time with those on this website who post in support of Measure L because they don't have a clue about what goes on in the schools. That is a blanket accusation that is unwarranted. I know what is going on in my kids' schools. I know that Rob Rich knows what is going on in our schools. Stephen Cassidy is terrifically well informed. I didn't use my own experience to rationalize away your arguments. I used my own experience to refute your characterization that all of the Measure L supporters have no clue what is going on in the schools. That simply isn't true. Your continued reference to the Measure B and Measure M money as proof that money doesn't help test scores is misplaced. Measure B contemplated 7 years of projects. Measure M just started. The first several years involve design, architecture and construction. Are you seriously contending that anyone argued that scores would improve while architects designed the new buildings? The Career Technical Education center JUST opened. Seems worth waiting until students actually use it. "Going back to the drawing board and facing some hard truths" is what we need to do? We should probably also roll up our sleeves, put our thinking caps on, and give it 110%. What SPECIFICALLY do you contend needs to be done to improve test scores. What are your specific proposals?
Leah Hall November 06, 2012 at 11:24 PM
I am seeing the soap box, sandwich board, and megaphone again, Richard. Those that claim that all "others" that don't agree are "clueless" need to get a clue themselves. On the school board I serve on, for example, we highly value trustees that are /not/ parents at the school as well as those that are. For one thing, it makes us all more aware of our assumptions and how we deliberate on challenges as a group and as individual trustees. Nothing like a fresh set of eyes and ears coming from a different background to catch lazy thinking and potential disasters before they happen. Divesity is not a panacea but it can be helpful most of the time.
Robert Marrujo November 06, 2012 at 11:32 PM
I gave you a list of some specifics just now, I'm not sure how else to break it down for you. Note, I said some, and I also explained in the posting that it'll take a lot more people than just me to break down how to improve our academic performance. I said what I did about Measure L supporters because our schools both here and across the state have been suffering for over a decade. Have we seen sweeping academic reform? Have we forced Sacramento to make education a priority? No. Instead, we rally against each other and act like we're all not paying enough, which simply isn't true. Look around you-people unemployed, families barely keeping their heads above water, and you want to go and force those people to give more on top of what they already do? Instead of going to the people who are irresponsibly divvying up the general fund? So yeah, I told those guys to save themselves a headache, because people like you and Leah are simply dead set on clinging to the crusty methods of old. We're not taking charge of our destinies by funding this bill, we're bowing to the politics and nonsense of Sacramento.
Robert Marrujo November 06, 2012 at 11:44 PM
And yes, it does take time to construct buildings and renovate, but what we do have up and running, which includes the Freshman campus (which is apparently host to numerous fights, some involving gangbangers), library expansion, and modifications to already existing campuses, have yielded paltry results. Why wouldn't anyone question that? Measure B, the $109 million cure-all, was almost seven years ago. What, we're supposed to wait a decade for the district to do its construction work, run out of money, tax us more, and THEN a few YEARS after that start improving the quality of education? So at this rate the kids will have amassed an API of 799 by the year 2020? 810 in 2022? You're telling me that this district, which has been struggling for years, thought the solution to our widespread problems was to spend over a decade doing construction work and then wait a few year beyond that to start seeing some results? That doesn't make any sense. But then, I suppose I shouldn't dare say anything about that, should I? Please.
audrey brown November 07, 2012 at 07:39 AM
Robert, you are so wrong and I am fairly disgusted with your outspoken but ignorant point of view. Almost EVERY district in California, and dare I say, most other states, have a parcel tax to supplement the paltry amount we get from the State. People support it because they WANT schools to be successful, and I am not so sure that is the case with many of the SL Patch contributors. Teachers have given up pay to keep classes going, and we spend our own money to make ends meet. We spend long hours trying to figure out how to motivate students, and how to change teaching strategies to help kids succeed. It is a partnership: students, parents, community, school. If you don't support your local schools, you are part of a community problem. And Robert, just because you were an Avid tutor, does not mean you have superior knowledge of the schools or the district. If I sound angry, I AM.I have had enough of teacher abuse. I work too hard to take it.
Robert Marrujo November 07, 2012 at 08:41 AM
I'm assuming this is Audrey Brown of SLHS, right? Ms. Brown, I don't work at the high school anymore, but like you, and many of the teachers there and across the district, I too have sacrificed. I worked for a year without pay when they laid off all the tutors because I didn't want to see the program fail. But-and this is the point I'm trying to get across-you SHOULDN'T be paying out of pocket or suffering abuse, and that's not the fault of anyone but the state government. Why should the state or anyone else be able to take the money you pay every year into taxes, squander it, and then expect you to cover the difference? Why aren't we fighting the state to use the money they have more effectively? Why do we pay for inmates to have cable TV? Why do we let our deans earn six-figure salaries and get home and car allowances? No one wants to go the extra mile and start demanding responsibility from the people in charge. As far as what you said about you and the other teachers working together to figure out how to engage students, as I've stated all up and down this comment strand, that's an issue beyond money, that's an issue stemming from problems both in and out of the classroom. Problems that the community has to come to terms with in their own households with their own kids. No amount of money we can spend on the district will fix the social problems contributing to poor academic achievement.
Robert Marrujo November 07, 2012 at 08:42 AM
So no, Ms. Brown, I don't support Measure L or anything like it, because all it does is maintain the broken status quo. As I'm sure you're well aware, the families of the kids you teach aren't any better off than you are. You want more money from families that can barely pay for their mortgage every month? Families that choose between heat and food in the winter? My family's property tax is $4800 a year, and by the time all the various initiatives and what have you get tacked on it climbs to $6000. The district seems to lose sight of that when they come to all of us with their hands out. It's time we start demanding real change. It's time parents started doing their jobs as parents and being involved in their kids' educations.
David November 07, 2012 at 02:02 PM
There are successful schools in our backyard that educate kids from the same neighborhoods as those in the public schools. There are successful schools all over the country in similar school districts. There has been no effort to even learn from those schools as far as I can tell. You may think my analogy sucks. I don't and here's why. Guys like Mr. Heverly are paid twice what the average SL resident is paid, plus pension and benefits. Principals at public schools are paid well over $100k. When you're at that payscale in nearly all jobs, you're expected to THINK OF WAYS TO DO YOUR OWN GOD**** JOB. You're not standing at an assembly line crafting widgets for $15/hour.
David November 07, 2012 at 02:04 PM
And we'll hear about the "success" of Berkeley High and Oakland from you Leah. The difference is that both Berkeley and OUSD are utter failures, while schools like Messmer have a 90+% graduation rate. You are constantly emphasizing graduation rates and post-high school education and training as key to reducing crime etc. So why do you gush over OUSD with a 52% graduation rate and mock Messmer High in Milwaukee (which educates nearly exclusively lower class minority kids) and its 90+% graduation rate? It's almost as if you want to keep kids poor and stupid. Oh. You do.
David November 07, 2012 at 02:19 PM
"Teachers have given up pay to keep classes going, and we spend our own money to make ends meet. " 1) You do realize that you earn more than the median San Leandro HOUSEHOLD? (often with 2 earners). 2) You do realize that median personal income is DOWN across the country and in California? 3) In other words, welcome to the club. It's getting bigger every day.
Leah Hall November 07, 2012 at 05:37 PM
David is referring to my admiration of the majority of real people in our cities and state who believe that /supporting/ our neighborhood public schools is the only reality based path towards /supporting/ our neighborhood public schools.
Andrew Kopp November 07, 2012 at 11:27 PM
The fact that teachers are often forced to dig into their own funds to pay for anything in the classroom is really bothersome. As David might portray the situation: Employee: "Boss, I don't have the equipment to perform the job. Can you get purchasing to order the necessary supplies so that I can perform my job properly and achieve success?" Boss: "No. A third of the shareholders blocked the other two thirds from giving the capital so Purchasing isn't getting anything. You're going to have to put out your own funds to pay for those supplies. Listen, if you want your cozy job, you'll put up with the supplies you get and you'll pay for whatever else you need out of your above average salary. Otherwise you can look for work elsewhere." Employee: "Well, I have a masters degree. I've complied with the most inane regulations imaginable, different instructions every month, received less than adequate cooperation from my customers, and inadequate support from my superiors. And I've spent the past fifteen years herding cats, so I can pretty much do anything. $#@! you. Find some trust fund Teach for American want to go to law school in two years twenty-three year old on an emergency certificate and see if he/she will part with her daily frapacrapamochachino money to get the supplies."
David November 08, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Andrew, the only reasons teachers "dig into their own pockets" are: 1) the parents are irresponsible. 2) the teachers' union have sucked up all the money for teachers' salaries. The analogy is: Boss: I'm so stupid to have promised my workers more than they're producing; I can't afford capital investments! Board of Directors: You're fired. New Boss: I have to cut wages in order to buy supplies/make capital investments! Board of Directors: Yep.
Andrew Kopp November 08, 2012 at 12:31 AM
"The teachers' union has sucked up all the money"? That implies that A) there is a naturally limited amount of funds for the school system's needs, and B) the teachers are paid more than they actually deserve (either as a percentage of the available funds or in relation to other employment in the national and local economy). There is no natural limit. In business, there's a natural limit - your revenue and the amount that you can borrow. In the public arena the limit is determined by the people (indirectly) and the elected officials (directly). If there is not enough money to cover the necessary capital AND compensate the teachers competitively, that is the fault of the electorate and the elected. If, on the other hand, you are suggesting that through the strong arm tactics of the teachers' union the public school teachers are being paid an unreasonably high sum of money for their relative contribution, I would be pleased to hear your argument in support thereof.
David November 08, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Uh Andrew: A) There is a limited amount of funds for the school system. Are you suggesting a 100% tax rate? B) Teachers are paid more here than in the rest of the country by far. But more importantly, the dreck of the administration from Sacramento on down is a far heavier burden than other states and certainly than in private schools. C) The evidence is right before you. Qualified teachers teach for lower salaries and benefits at private schools all the time. The union cartel forces higher wages through its political bribing tactics and regular extortion runs on the public.
David November 08, 2012 at 02:31 AM
PS. The K-12 per pupil spending structure in the US has increased dramatically in the past 30 years, in California it has doubled after inflation. We have by far the costliest school system in the world, for middling outcomes. I hear all the time that our health care system is the costliest in the world and somehow is terrible (despite longer , and more disability-free life after 60 than any other Western country), yet where is the outcry that our schools fritter away Billions in administrative costs, bloated teacher salaries and other garbage for mediocre results? Everyone says therefore we must cut healthcare spending. Why not apply the same principles to K-12 education spending?


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